What I Didn't Get in my MBA

So my friend Andy messaged me on Facebook and commented that he mentioned me on his blog.  Somehow, I missed the memo that he even had a blog... so of course I jumped over and checked it out.  His blog brought two things to my attention: 1) Catching up on a blog that you care about but has been in existence even only for a few months can take a while. 2) Andy totally caught what I was missing in my MBA program at Liberty: the chance to meet people and create a network of friends and peers. I chose Liberty because I wanted a fully online education experience.  With as much online work as I do, it was important to me that my education encompass the very same strengths and weaknesses that my career might have. Where Liberty totally missed the boat is creating any kind of social structure for us.  There was interaction, but it was all just names and assignments for 90% of the classes.  There were no faces put to names, no conversations outside the flow of the assignment, and no way to keep in natural contact after the completion of a course (or the program). I think this is a vital part of the Master's experience: to be able to learn from, lean on, and grow with your peers.  There should be a camaraderie between us.  We should care about how the knowledge helped us a group.  I should be able to share about new media with the hr guy and i should be able to learn from the military men that I took classes with.  But Liberty dropped the ball and didn't set anything like that up for us. I feel like I missed out on a lot of great people because of this; whereas I walked away from my undergrad with friends for life and social growth, I leave my MBA program with too few new friends and contacts.  This is an issue that must be addressed by online learning programs. I could take some of the blame onto myself and say that I didn't try hard enough to build the relationships.  However, trying to force something like that to happen when you're in the throws of course work, full time employment, being a husband, having friends, etc etc... it just isn't going to come if it takes effort upon effort. Now that I'm done, I wouldn't mind going back and tracking down some of the cohorts that I thought were interesting, intelligent people.  But it's too late as the classes are closed and none of us will likely ever check our Liberty University email addresses again.  Sigh. So enjoy your classmates, if you ever get the opportunity to take a Master's program.  They are a key element you don't want to miss.
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Aaron Linne, Master of Business Administration

As of Saturday, May 10th, I have officially completed my school work and been given the degree of Master's of Business Administration from Liberty University.  It's quite nice to be done and completed, having successfully gone through the courses and learned the concepts and structures of business on a Master's level. I chose Liberty as my school of choice for this program because I wanted a fully online experience, which I what I got.  I never made it to the school, I never met any of my professors and I never met any of my classmates.  I was able to do everything asynchronously and learned my studies through my own will and determination. The program was quite interesting, as it requires of its students to be very mature and adult.  Unlike undergrad work, there is no hand holding involved.  You either read the materials or you don't.  You either learn the concepts or you don't.  You either do the work or you don't. The education through the MBA program has helped me feel secure in my knowledge of business plans, economic theories, and given me a solid foundation to more forward with exploring the business and marketing application of new media. And so, with much pomp and circumstance, you are more than welcome to call me "Master Linne" from here on out.  ;-)
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The Miscommunication of Teamwork

I'm approaching the end of my MBA.  At this point, I expect that my fellow classmates have taken a few courses and have, at least written a few research papers in their academic career.  So, knowing my own skills with writing and the level of academia I bring to the team, I assume the best of my peers. A common thread in online courses is the team project.  Whether it be something abstract or something concrete - like a research paper - the largest grade in most of your classes will be dependant upon the work of other people.  In one course I'm in my group had seven people... which results in mass confusion trying to get things organized.  It also means you have a myriad of personalities... some aggressive (I was called out in the class for not having turned my section of a report in... four days before it was due...) and some never showing up to work. But this story is about my other class, where I have three other people in the group with me.  Because it's smaller, we got to learn a little bit more about each other and have all kinds of fun conflict.  It's a course on global studies, so it's only appropriate that I learned a global lessons: Not all countries consider a research paper to be the same thing.  So when you sit down to compile everyone's portions and three are the common American way you and I would think a research paper should be... and then the fourth section is an outline with data points... how do you make it work? I think it's lessons like these that make persuing a formal education worthwhile.  I could read dozens of business text books and gleam knowledge from them.  But interaction - and the dreaded group project - helps focus that learning into something tangible. In the real business world, if you're on a team (or a manager of a team) and someone does something totally different than what's expected, or their work simply doesn't match the work that everyone else is doing... how do you compensate?  If it's something that you thought was so clear that not defining words need to be given (do a research paper) and you get back something totally... just... not on the mark... is it your fault for not better describing the task, or the person who missed the mark's fault for not understanding the task? So, being the one to compile the paper, I was presented with an option.  Do I (a) rewrite the outlined data into a paper, (b)request that the author make it right, or (c) simply put it in as-is, suffer the grade, and complain to the professor? I've chosen a combination of (a) and (b).  I've contacted the author and requested the changes.  However, we're on a super tight schedule... we have to turn it in tomorrow.  As such, I'm taking my laptop with me and - if I don't hear a response by lunch - I know what I'll be doing tomorrow night. The option of turning it in inaccurate or just complaining to the professor is simply not an acceptable solution.  At the workplace if something isn't right and you have a chance to fix it but don't... then you're just as much in the wrong as the person whose error it truly was.  The trickling of blame simply isn't acceptable if yuo have the means to catch the error and correct it. This is one of the reasons I'm on such a mentoring kick.  I want to hear stories of other people's victories and mistakes so I, too, can learn from them.  What is the point of folly or success if there is no one to share it with? I have one class left in MBA, and it starts next week.  When we get to the group project, you can rest assured that I will make sure that the style and expectations of the paper are made clear to the group.  And so, a little learning lesson about miscommunication of teamwork goes in my picket of life. P.S. Did I mention the author got the assignment mixed up, and wrote not only the section assigned to them, but the section assigned to me as well?  The author, by the end of the project, will have likely done more work than anyone else, all because of misunderstanding the assignment.
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the right formula

encouraged by finding the right formula and the brief distraction of writing a blog post, i put on the most sugar-y sweet happy music I have, and went to town to solve the problem. i realized that it was similar to a problem I had posted to our class discussion board earlier in the week, so i check it... and noticed that I had done root-mean square (the forecast check to determine how accurate your forcast is) wrong. So I happily fixed it. Yeah, score extra points before it's graded. so I get back to working at the problem at hand... and noticed something else. when you're doing an exponential smoothing forecast, you have several elements. let's take a look at the formula: Ft+1 =wAt + (1 - w)Ft Essentially, Ft+1 is what you're solving for... it's the forecast for the next year.  For example, you might be trying to find what the forecast would be for the year 2000.  To find it you have three elements: 1) w: w is for a weight that you choose, between 0 and 1.  The point of this weight is to determine how much "weight" you're giving to the forecast from real data and forecasted data. 2) At: a is for the Actual amount from the year you are using to solve the forecast.  If you were trying to forecast for 2000, you would use the actual data for the year 1999. 3) Ft: f is for the Forecast you previously did to solve the current forecast.  Again, if you were trying to forecast for 2000, you would use the forecast data for the year 1999. so what did i do wrong? well, when you have a set of actual data, you start at the beginning and forecast through all the years you have leading up to the coming year that you're going to forecast for.  you do this so in the end you can check the root-mean square and find out how accurate your forecast is.  well, you have to start somewhere so, to get the very first Ft, you just take an average of all the real data you have. when i originally solved the problem, I used the average every time instead of the previous forecast. but, that wasn't the end of my troubles. because of the way I wrote out the problem, using a grid, i ended up using the WRONG FORMULA.   i was doing this: Ft+1 =wAt+1 + (1 - w)Ft sigh.  so... i finally found all my errors (as far as I can tell) my fourth time through.  the good thing about this is I'll never forget this experience and the frustration, but continual excitement at "getting it right".  It's amazing that you can think you've got a problem right four times... of course, from a psychological point of view, it makes you second guess yourself a lot and wonder how you got it wrong so many times.  in something like this i have two options: 1) decide in my mind that i just am never going to understand it 2) decide in my mind that after four tries, my answer is correct and i have mastery over the subject (which is why i wrote this post... so i could prove to myself that I understand the concepts).  if my answer is still wrong... at least I know my answer is more correct than my version 4 times ago. which would you choose?
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the wrong page (stupidity and humility)

My Managerial Economics in a Global Economy has been a fun venture so far.  I'm enjoying getting to flex the math muscles of my brain that haven't been used in several years.  Tonight, however, was a lesson in humility and common-sense stupidity. I have just spent the last hour working on this problem: Using the index (with 1985 = 100) on housing starts in the United States per year from 1986 to 1997 given in the table below, forecast the index for 1998 using a three year and a five year moving average.   Which of your estimates is better if the actual index of housing starts in the United States for 1998 is 163? I simply couldn't make the formula I was using help me with the problem.  I was working through a trend projection formula.  This isn't a trending question; it's a smoothing technique using moving averages. I was four pages off in my book. This past hour has really been a cathartic process for me.  About 45 minutes in I was tempted to give up and just worry about it later.  I persevered, reread all the info BEFORE the page with the trend projection formula, reread the entire previous chapter, and was just plain frustrated. The fact of the matter is I've always done really well in school.  I've always gotten good grades, great test scores, and generally can learn things pretty quickly.  I can honestly say that I have never in my life been stumped on a question like this for more than 5-10 minutes (by "question like this" I mean one where I should be able to solve it, and have all the pertinent information available to me).  It's not often in life that we get to really feel a new experience. At this moment I'm feeling very humbled.  I've often relied on my intellect and gotten frustrated with people who don't want to learn new things... or that think they can't. There was a brief moment in this hour-long misdirection of formulas that I wondered what the rest of the course would be like... could I handle having to process through hour-long problems all semester long.  Would it be worth it, or could I take a different course?  Could I, should I, give up? It was a taste of intellectual defeat... and I didn't like it.  But the alternative, giving up, would have been so very easy and appealing.  And, ultimately, all I won myself from pushing through the issue was humility, a feeling of ignorance, and missing out on sitting on the couch, watching a movie with my beautiful wife.  I can see how giving up not bothering with the problem would be more appealing and, in many ways, seem more beneficial. This rests on my mind at the age of 27.  I couldn't imagine the impact it might have on a 7 year old, or a 17 year old, or all the years in between. I wonder when my children will hit this kind of wall.  I wonder when the next time I'll have the answer just out of reach, only to learn that my own choices kept me from seeing it.
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Global Business

This semester is the closing chapter of my MBA education through Liberty University.  I can already tell, however, that I'm going to enjoy it immensely.  This semester, for me, is all about global business.  I'm taking 3 courses this semester:
  1. International Business
  2. Global Economic Environment
  3. Policy & Strategy in Global Corporations
I hate that it's taken me this long to find my niche... but I am absolutley loving these courses.  They are the first ones I've taken during my MBA where the text books are really emphasizing a forward looking strategy.  I don't think that any company larger than a local services business can truly compete in the marketplace without having a global persepctive. The fact of the matter is, every word that little-old-me types on this blog can be come the international currency of information.  What I post sitting in the Standard Cafe in Nashville, TN can be read by people in China, Dubai, and Thailand.  If i sought them out, I could collaborate with international professionals and create freelance oppertunities across any expanse of water.  Simply put, with no special effort, I could become an international agency. Why then is it that many businesses restrict their products and marketing to a small regional market?  Once a product has been manufactured and produced, it's simply workflow efforts to make it available in other countries.  Understandably, copyright issues may be a barrier to entry... but if you fully own the content, why restrict it? One place where I'm expecting to see a huge growth is the purchase of digital goods from external countries.  No shipping cost, no need to repurpose the material, and very easy marketing oppertunites... just turn on Google AdWords in another country. As we become more and more globally local, I hope that churches will be able to learn from our foreign brothers and sisters.  We need to know the struggles and joys they are facing so we can support them in prayer.  The affluence of American churches can serve foreign churches in ways far greater than unneccessary church improvements could.  Partnering with other countries could allow church members to use their skills and abilities on an international stage. I'm looking forward to this semester moreso than any other I've taken on my MBA path... should be fun to find how to best utilize the growingly glocal marketplace.
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